With the release of the formerly classified JFK assassination files that have been classified since nineteen sixty-three, I was reminded of my own interest in conspiracy theories, new and old. As a recovering government employee, one who had worked in the intelligence business for nearly four decades, I was born skeptical and remain paranoid about these kind of things-- but there are mitigating factors that make me believe that conspiracy theories are just that: theories and not proof. Let me explain why.
My wife and I drove across country to Monterey California from the Cape this summer, stopping in Roswell New Mexico, to visit the UFO Museum located there. It is an interesting place, filled with artifacts and a slew of true believers who inhabit the smallish building.
A friend of mine, a colonel in the Air Force, was given the unenviable task of writing the Roswell report in the mid-1980s. His charge was to interview all remaining individuals who allegedly witnessed the crash of a UFO had a ranch outside of Roswell, as well as descendants of those individuals. His report was exhaustive, and well done. It was a fitting tribute to his twenty-nine years in the service of his country and the United States Air Force. Conspiracy theorists immediately debunked the report as government propaganda, and evidence that the government was in fact covering up the Roswell UFO sighting and the aliens that they recovered.
Another good friend, a government lawyer, was a very junior member of the Warren Commission, the group charged with investigating the events surrounding that terrible day in November 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I asked my lawyer friend, in passing, if there was anything in the files being withheld from the public that would change the perception, or the reality about Lee Harvey Oswald being the lone assassin. He answered that in his opinion, there was nothing in the classified files that would make much difference. He commented that conspiracy people, those with an ax to grind, and those having an agenda, would always claim that it was a conspiracy, that the Russians did it, that the CIA did it, that the FBI did it, that the Mafia did it, or my personal favorite, that the Cubans did it.
Now we had a chance to see whether my friend is correct: whether there is something of a smoking gun in these last few documents that are going to be released in the next few months.
I have put my paranoia aside, and reduced my skeptical level to almost zero, and hope (perhaps hopelessly) that the release of the remaining JFK assassination documents will quiet the extreme notions that exist about the assassination itself and responsibility for killing the president. Almost all of the players are dead now. Whatever was said and done during that terrible time, and was held as classified, needs to see the light of day. We owe it to the legacy of a great president.